Friday, April 17, 2015

Waking up; online chess and other musings...

“ (Ones) Focus needs to be working hard every day at every opportunity.  Soak up every single book and resource you can and most importantly play constantly. That is all anyone can do, it comes down to self sacrifice, and you have to be willing to do that without any promise or guarantee that you will improve even in the slightest. You have to genuinely love it or you will give it up eventually. Ultimately, you have to derive enjoyment out of working hard at the thing you love, not necessarily getting better at it. Also, I believe to become a good chess player you have to have the utmost respect for your opponent regardless of what you perceive their playing level to be. … Take some time to really reflect on your motivations behind playing chess. It is more important to do something that you love than to be good at anything in particular. Good luck and all the best for the future.” 
(The Legendary Rod Race; Talking to a discouraged chess enthusiast)

“Wake Up”, my helpful assistant nudges me.  I moan incoherently and roll over.  “No”, she adamantly insists, “Your blog is on-line.  Its time!” I rise in drowsy confusion and fumble with the mic.   And pause momentarily collecting my wits….

Right OK.  Welcome Back.   Unfortunately I haven’t done much blogging.   But despite my sleepy last post… I’m still sticking to my study routine.   Today is going to be a ‘grab bag’ of thoughts; and I apologize if it comes off dis-jointed… I’ll do my best!

The biggest danger to my chess are not blunders- it is discouragement or ambivalence. After struggling some with some really sloppy chess; You might think that Blunders are the ultimate evil;  the thing I most definitely need to quit doing… and while I’ve shaking in frustration with my inclination to find moves that are easily shown to be awful.
I still hold with the thought that discouragements and ambivalence are the great twin perils.  Face it , to “err” is human.  And regarding improvement- however slow it seems to happen;  I’m literally prepared to spend years to work out and fix my flaws.  Things will tighten up and get better if I can just work the row.  As RR points out; the real trick here is to enjoy the voyage and enjoy chess and chess improvement activities.

How does this affect my study?   In that light then, to a point, we have been tweaking our study habits.   I’ve had struggles with old game collections and long strings of capablanca moves are, uniquely, Really hard for me to enjoy (or understand).   Instead, puzzles – generally – work.  And I find that looking over pivotal position that I work out on my own and then prepare with a succinct well analyzed writeup as quite instructive.  In the past such puzzle books are very tactical; but I think they might not have to be!  In fact,  a more diverse collection is warranted.  I’m exploring options right now; and likely I will buy within a few days….   Again;  Study what you enjoy; because passionate, intense efforts are more instructive than that “I gotta do xyz”, Irregardless of the healthiness of what your dragging your feet against.

I’ve been having the growing feeling- that chess tournaments are not in my future.   This changes my feelings about what kind of chess to prepare for…. “Rapid” but not  (necessarily) “Blitz”.   I was kind of hoping that late spring something would pop up within my geographical reach.   Moreover, I really have to question whether I can really spend the time- without big fights with my spouse.
 In the End;  “I don’t think so”…seems to be the honest answer.  the events just truly seem to few, far and too long to make it work.   Maybe when my nest empties…..
So with this in mind.  Some of the standard advice, though, assumes that your after improvement in the Long OTB Game; G90 standard.    This is why there is so much concern with quicker online time controls.   On the other hand, if your future lies, with what is common online…. The USCF calls those time controls ‘Rapid.’
Moreover, they have even begun to organize weekly Friday tournaments some in rapid time control.  This is perfect and  I intend to authenticate my uscf membership soon.   Tournaments are important for chess improvement and without the serious test- study efforts always seem to lack something.

“Blitz” though IS in my future, but I must work at it indirectly.   The thought of the day is How can I make my game SAFE in any speed.  I know , I haven’t forgot; concentrating heavily Blitz was frustrating and yielded little improvement.  Worse I can’t help to feel like it was (at least a little) responsible for a spate of bad blunders that begin to affect all  my gameplay.  I think I was rushing things; and reinforcing bad habits of not checking all my moves to see that they don’t hang material.  On the other hand;  blitz IS I think my future, if for no other reason that I WANT deeply to be able to play faster without falling apart.
Imagine being able to play the piano; but only in slow songs.   Now many songs are impossible to play; you’re repertoire is limited.    But the BIG deal is to play SAFE chess at any Speed.  This I think is the most important. t.  Even in the slow game, you can get in time pressure.   I need to accurately ensure that all my answers (QUICK or SLOW) are safe.  My Unsafe chess… is a stubborn limitation of my current chess skills.  And I think.  With all the tactical pattern practice that I’ve had- I would be a formidable opponent if I weren’t always so prone to give my game awary.
So, In my Turn-based chess.  I am initially writing down Blitz and standard speed answers before I turn on the analysis board and really work the variations.   It will take some time though to uncover weakness.  Even when I am very blundery- It still can put out 10-20 good moves.  
Frequency of  1:20 blunder to moves ….
With 4 running games, done once every 2 days…
1 blunder in 10 days.    
Another easy step;  Chess play against my Good chess computer.  Work within a repertoire to work out your openings some at the same time.  I also need to drill through some of my games.  Picking my moves and seeing if I repeat the blunders of long ago.  

After a mouse-slip (last night); I play some Very patzer chess afterwards.   The Psychology of losing it.  Again we see this, how within a game and even between games; I lose my nerve and still to fall into blunder after blunder- all (or most) of which are preventable.
Remember to err is human.  But to defend tenaciously is a very important attribute of a stronger player.   and btw, defend meaning not just passively waiting for the opponent to swarm my broken position.  But to look for counter-play!   I think besides a shaky thought processes; fear and humiliation become real adversaries.
Generally, defeating the  monster of discouragement, embarrassment is a hugely important accomplishment… and worth an intense effort.   It might seem , at times , to be so simple.  But it’s a bit like learning how to deal with slow times in fishing.   You learn to accept basic failure, because it is innate in the hobby… and if you don’t learn to accept it- you can’t develop enough to experience; to deep joy of hard-won success.

ELO rating disease.  A brief immunization  As a long time forum lurker I am struck over (and over and over) how MUCH people are obessed on rating and then they get very, very restrictive. “ONLY OTB Rating matters” or “BLITZ RATING show your real skill at chess”… and the like.
I ran into someone that opined that Chess Rating obsession was a contagious, virulent disease!  And I thought that WAS a very astute observation.
Just like the real bug;  One guy with ERD (elo Rating disease); inevitable infects most of the people around him. Sending all into a unproductive cycle of Ego, Envy, humiliation and contention.   By the time this attitude seeps into a forum thread… Nobodies rating is high enough; Title players are arrogant,  Lower ranked guys are morons, newbies, and ignorant.   Any kind of productive consensus is lost.   I picture people working all their friends, for Carlsen’s advice endorsement so they can win this war of egos.   (of course then others will get Kasporov; and we’d get the whole tiresome world champion vs world champion argument).
And its all so … useless.   Little of my strong advice comes from me, exactly.   I prolly read it someone, it seemed right, and to the extent that it can has been helpful…
Really, in the end,  Rating reflects your rating and nothing more. It says nothing about why and what exactly you get wrong- (though there are common issues that many people with similar rating have.)
If people just enjoyed the game and improved because they wanted to improve- without hanging onto some silly number.  I think it would depress them less.  They’d listen more (to others).   They’d be less exclusion, less bad feeling, even play better Games!... and for sure a lot of rude posts on’s forums would disappear/diminish.

Lastly, (More) Crickets  than usual in the blogosphere.   Has everyone left the house?  No comment except a bump should any (lurking) reader want to comment.   I’m sure I’m part of the problem… both ways!  as I both lurk a lot and don’t blog enough.
Nevertheless, “the Great patzer” aims to be a  little different than many of the blogs around the blogosphere.   My aim is Not to necessarily be instructional; but more from a psychological/philosophical point of view.My own chess study isn’t really part of the content.   (whereas many blogs try to merge  how and What they are learning).

Ok, well signing off. Hopefully a new update in about a week.  Keep in touch.  May all you games be good, earnest efforts!


  1. Fully agree with Rod Race's comments up front. If you're not a professional chessplayer, it's a pastime not the central focus of your life. And be glad you don't have to rely on chess to put dinner on the table.

    Re: the blogosphere, it's springtime! Let's all spend some more time outside. At least for a while. :)

  2. I like reading your blog. Your posts remind me that I was a chess amateur quite a long time ago. Recently I decided to quit chess - to stop practicing it, analysing, going to tournaments, reading books, solving puzzles, etc. Nowadays I can do WHATEVER I want or wish with chess. It is all up to me what I want to do with my chess. And believe me: as I do not feel any pressure - I can play without being worried that my rating (real or virtual) drop down or someone beats me because he was weaker, stronger or better. The biggest part is to enjoy what you are doing - and I decide to enjoy chess any kind possible. It is only me who is responsible for my chess - and at present I can play as often as I wish to. Maybe you may treat it the same way - it is only my suggestion.

  3. thank you, I'm appreciative. truth be told... I have been a little quiet on the blog and haven't heard as much from some people... I'm glad I have readers, (though I know I am writing for me).

    I strongly agree that one must work on the enjoyment of chess. one must look for the delight in tough spots, and take comfort in FAITH that , to the extent that one HAS an improvement plan, that its doing its job- that each lost game is a neccesary set of lumps to understand the complexity; the challenge and the awe-inspiring unpredictability of this game.

    I just played a game that showcased this with my favorite (well only) OTB sparring partner. he came out of the opening in a much better way than he normally does; and in some vague threats during opposite side castling. He managed to trap a Rook; with strongly posted bishops...

    after losing (A LOT) of material. I advance a pawn upon his position. Now it is my time to throw big threats and I am poised to win the game with the last two three peices.

    -it turned out that his only chance for the draw was to give away a peice. any move to save his peice was a forced checkmate.

    This is awe-inspiring unpredictability and a great game. I wished he found the draw, but as He pointed out- it was a "hard fought" fight-- and he was completely dominated by my drawing attack. Games like that reminds me why I play chess; and why I study.

    my outdoor distraction is fishing; and recently there has been some good trips- so I understand. in this part of the world May is about as nice as weather ever gets; not too cold or warm and with a beautiful flowering though all the woods...